Thursday, May 7, 2009

Institutional Grade Science Fiction

The ads for the new Star Trek movie do not excite me. In fairness I am often a fairly difficult person to convince that something will be good. Advertisements in particular have a particularly high hurtle to get over with me since I have seen so many good ads for bad movies or products. However, I do have a certain fondness for Star Trek since it was a favorite of mine when I was a child, though that nostalgia is tempered the the knowledge that it was great for its time and when I have seen reruns of the original series it is no longer quite as magical.

What excited me about Star Trek was that even in the 1980s it was pretty cutting edge. Not in its special effects but in the stories that it was telling and the issues it was asking us to have a hard look at. Racism is not exactly dead even today, but when Star Trek put a black woman on the bridge of a starship it was a completely different world. Not to mention the story lines that dealt with exactly the same issues, but using aliens as metaphors. Not to mention that the idea of a future where the Russians would be trusted friends and all the rest of it.

Even Star Trek: The Next Generation did a certain amount of dealing with real world issues though science fiction and asking questions about how we treat returning soldiers for instance. But unlike the first television series it seemed to shy away from being too critical of our own culture or the hard issues of our time. Gays and homosexuals in the future? Never once. Not even in metaphor. Every series since that time has moved further and further away from asking hard questions as the franchise became more mainstream.

Under all the bright shiny newness it has become one of the boring mainstream institutions. Established institutions don't deal with hard issues, they put them off until someone else has to deal with them. Under all the gadgets and special effects there isn't a story for me to be interested in anymore. That's what is wrong with Star Trek for me.

Plus I'm sure that I've already seen all these special effects/stunts before in everything from Independence Day to Riddic. Great. Someone who can show how bad-ass he is by kicking it up to 11 and jumping of something even higher or blowing up something bigger. Bah.

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